E-book now available on the voting amendment and Minnesota’s role in the ‘voting wars’

A new e-book on the voting amendment and Minnesota’s role in the national voting wars has been written by veteran political reporter Jim Ragsdale, who now writes for the Star Tribune.

“Minnesota Voter ID and the National Debate,” is available for 99 cents from national e-book sellers. It’s the first release from MHS Express, the new digital imprint of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

With Minnesotans set to vote Nov. 6 on a voting amendment, the book is described as a “timely primer on Minnesota’s role in the national ‘voting wars,’ highlighting the history of voting rights and voting integrity while also explaining the complexity of voting law and its relations to the Civil Rights movement.”

In a blog post for the Minnesota Historical Society Press, Ragsdale says:

“In rushing from event to event covering the photo ID issue in Minnesota for the Star Tribune, it is hard to find time to put what’s happening into a national and historical context. I tried to do so in this piece, and to direct readers to court cases and books that do that far better than I.

“The experience helped me understand why making any change in our voting system is so difficult.

“This most basic right (and rite) of citizenship is how “We the People” choose our leaders. But the meaning of those words in the preamble to the Constitution has divided us since the days of George Washington. The framers fought over who should vote. The Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the draft and the Vietnam War — all enlarged the meaning of who “We the People” are, and who can vote. Seven amendments to the Constitution have been needed to expand and clarify voting rights and election procedures. Nearly a century passed between the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870, which protected voting rights of black men who had been enslaved, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was needed to end Jim Crow laws in the South and enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.

“So the photo ID movement sweeping the country, despite its common-sense appeal in a society where IDs are required in virtually every transaction, runs headlong into this history. And it is not ancient history. In my lifetime, people have fought and died on our soil for the right to vote.

“I hope readers can begin to see this historical and national context as they watch the ID drama unfold.”

Ragsdale, who covers politics and government for the Strib, has also worked for the Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio.

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